Luncheon highlights business apprenticeship, training programs

Tucky Allen, with Kansas WorkforceONE, talks to local business representatives about apprenticeship and training programs offered.

By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications

More than 30 local business and industry representatives attended a noon luncheon Monday to learn more about the state’s Registered Apprenticeship program and on-the-job training program.

Tucky Allen, Business Services Director with Kansas WorkforceONE, said the registered apprentice program is a Kansas Department of Commerce program but is a national initiative.

KDOC was awarded a federal Department of Labor grant to fund the program, which is an employer-driven, “earn while you learn’ model that combines on the job learning with technical instruction. The registered apprentice program allows a business to move a worker from a low or no skill entry-level position to full occupational proficiency.

“We know there’s people out there. We know there’s job seekers. We know when the (unemployment) percentage is low like it is, they are very unskilled,” Allen said. “They need to be ‘skilled up,’ and apprenticeship is one way to do it.”

The benefits for workers is it allows them to learn new skills while getting paid for it and allows them to earn higher wages as those skills increase. Employers’ benefits include developing a more highly-skilled workforce, reducing turnover and increasing productivity through a customizable apprenticeship program that is tailored to the specific business’s needs.

Allen said businesses of all sizes can benefit from the program, including for profit and non-profit organizations. He noted that Kansas Department of Commerce has 13 apprentices through the program, and Salina Regional Health Center recently created an apprenticeship program for certified medical assistants.

“It can be any industry-manufacturing, medical, auto, school, whatever your business is,” Allen said.

Registered Apprentice programs can range between 1 to six years depending on the target occupation and program model chosen. The programs must have a minimum of 144 hours of related technical instruction (classroom) for every 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.

Each employer develops their program and decides who will become apprentices. Apprentices receive hands on training from an experienced mentor at the job site.

“This is not something that we will come into your establishment, your place of business, and dictate what your training plan is,” Allen said. “This is your training plan. This is what’s going to make your employee the best. The on-the-job training gives them hands-on experience; we’re not going to tell you what that is or how you should train them, where they should start.”

The state’s apprenticeship staff will provide a program outline and work with the employer to customize a plan. The state initially received a $200,000 grant in 2016 for the RA program, followed by a roughly $1 million grant in 2017 to help businesses pay for the RTI of new apprentices. This year, a $1.2 million extension grant was issued allowing the RA program to continue to grow.

Through the program, employers can be reimbursed up to $3,000 per apprentice for related technical classroom instruction. Allen said funds are still available on a first-come, first-served basis through 2019 to assist businesses in starting apprenticeship programs.

“That’s the goal is to get more apprenticeships out there for job seekers to look at,” Allen said, especially to educate youth about what opportunities exist for them here in the community.

“College is not for everybody. An apprenticeship is one way we can increase our pipeline to the high schools and get them involved in knowing what’s available,” he said.

More than 1,300 Department of Labor-approved target occupations have been defined in a variety of industries, including construction, energy, finance and business, healthcare, hospitality, IT, telecommunications and transportation to name a few.

Currently, there are about 1,925 registered apprentices in Kansas receiving both on the job training and paid employment, with 393 of those achieving “journeyperson” status within the past 18 months.

In addition to the RA program, Kansas WorkforceONE offers an On-the-Job Training program that allows an employer to be reimbursed for up to half of an employee’s salary for a negotiated period of time as compensation for the extraordinary costs to train new hires and lower productivity during training.

The training is provided by the employer while the participant is engaged in productive work that provides knowledge or skills essential to the job.

An Employee Specialist from the state visits both the job candidate and employer to confirm eligibility, establish training tasks, and sign a contract. Upon approval, a monthly timesheet is submitted for the hours the employee participated in the OTJ training program and the employer is reimbursed based on hours reported on the timesheet.

For more information about the Registered Apprentice program and/or the On-the-Job Training program, contact Tucky Allen at tucky@kansasworkforceone.org, or at (316) 303-2906.